How does detoxification work & is it really necessary?

How does detoxification work & is it really necessary?

In the increasingly toxic environment we are surrounded by, there has been a huge surge in alleged detoxification products and protocols, claiming to eliminate unwanted "toxins" out of the body. There is everything out on the market ranging from the "Master Cleanse" juice- essentially lemon water and cayenne - to sulfur pills that claim to che-late heavy metals from the body. Do any of these things really work, and are they even necessary?

The short answer is: we don't really know. I know that isn't the answer you wanted to hear, it's not the answer I wanted to hear either. Here's what we DO know about the science behind detoxing so far: 

1. Detoxification is a 2 part process, phases I and II. They occur in the liver, and require many different vitamins, minerals, organosulfur compounds (things like sulfarophane found in broccoli & brussels sprouts) and amino acids. 

2. If the body does not have ALL of these nutrients on board, the detoxification process can not be completed. Instead, the toxic compound (which can be anything from a heavy metal like mercury to a carcinogenic compound like glyphosate aka round-up) is rendered inert by the body and stored away in fat cells for safe keeping - presumably indefinitely. The compound is converted into an unstable intermediate in the process, which can be damaging to the liver cells if the detox pathway is not completed. 

Once the body has stored these materials out of harms way, they are VERY difficult to access - and for good reason. If something as simple as drinking spicy lemon water was the solution, we would all be much better off in this increasingly polluted world. I wish it was!

3. The only verifiable methods of extracting heavy metals and large amounts of toxic materials from the body is with IV theapy, which will inject chellating agents into the body to bind the toxic materials and allow the body to excrete them.

4. From a holistic prospective, there is a small body of evidence observing this same effect with cilantro. BUT the amout of cilantro really matters - meaning the person would need to consume a whole bunch of cilantro a day for several months to see similiar results. 

There is very limited research about all of the chemicals we encounter in our cleaning products, beauty products and in our food from pesticide and herbicide exposure. To what extent are these chemicals bogging down our liver and hindering it's ability to properly remove harsh chemicals from our bodies? And once the body has stored them away for safe keeping in our fat cells, are they even capable of harming us? We know that fat cells are responsible for the production of many hormones, so does that mean our hormones are being negatively impacted by these toxic materials? There is no straight forward answer to this complicated dilemma. 

As of right now, IV therapy is only necessary in the event of a significant exposure to something that has poisioned the body. A normal, healthy individual with a normally functioning liver should be able to excrete or store these compounds just fine. But with constant assault from environmental pollutants in the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and food we eat, are we beginning to experience sub-clinical toxicity? Maybe - maybe not.

Because this issue is so convoluted and unclear, I have decided the best approach is avoidance as much as possible. Persistant organic pollutants - or POPs - are harsh chemicals with known carcinogenic or toxic effects on the body and can be identified in many common cleaning or beauty products and many processed foods. Eliminating and avoiding these compounds is the best way to support the body in it's natural detoxification processes. Stay tuned for an article on how to identify and remove these POPs from your home and diet!